Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Is North Wilkesboro Best Location, Format for All-Star Race?

Is this current All-Star format and location the best possible version of this race for the NASCAR Cup Series?

Mike Neff: Being the resident “get off my lawn” guy, I will stick with my longtime belief. Charlotte Motor Speedway invented the All-Star Race and that is where it belongs. North Wilkesboro Speedway is close enough that it isn’t too much of a burden on the teams in the All-Star Open, but ideally the race belongs in the de facto home of NASCAR.

Luken Glover: Having it at North Wilkesboro is a good option as the track works its way back onto the schedule consistently. I like the format of having a 200-lap race with a 100-lap opening and 50-lap stint at the end to see who can manage their tire wear, especially with the primary tires and option tires. I’m not a huge fan of NASCAR mandating teams to start on the option tires as that dampens strategy initially. Overall, the All-Star Race is a B+. The large downside is the current production of the short track package, which will hopefully be fixed in the near future.

Wyatt Watson: I don’t think so. It was fun to have North Wilkesboro host the All-Star Race for its triumphant return, and North Wilkesboro is also close enough to still make All-Star weekend truly feel like an off week. However, with how unexciting short track racing has become, there’s only one place that makes sense to once again host the fight for $1 million: Charlotte. The racing product at mile-and-a-half tracks have been extremely fun and entertaining to watch during the Next Gen era. It would make perfect sense for NASCAR to return to Charlotte in the future if it fails to figure out how to save the short track racing product.

James Krause: I think so. While I loved the All-Star Race at Charlotte growing up, North Wilkesboro feels like the perfect next step for the event. It ties NASCAR back to some of its roots and provides that authentic local short track aesthetic you can’t get at almost any national series events. Whether we get quality short track racing remains up in the air.

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With Silly Season underway, which driver is in need of a change for 2025?

Austin Bass: It’s been almost a full calendar year since Kyle Busch won a Cup race and his cars do not have winning speed, as evidenced by the alarming number of solo spins and unforced errors from the No. 8 this year. If history is any indicator, the pressure gauges are spiked and lights are flashing red under Busch’s helmet. His pop-off valve was released after the GEICO 500 a few weeks ago when he displayed frustration with the aero effects of the cars in the draft at Talladega Superspeedway. It’s only a matter of time before he blows a gasket at his team. There is no way Richard Childress will tolerate it the way Joe Gibbs did, so Busch will need a new place to call home once he’s no longer welcome in Welcome, N.C.

Krause: Ryan Preece. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammates — Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry — reportedly all having meetings to improve their Darlington Raceway performances without informing him was concerning. The veteran of the group, Preece sits 28th in the standings and has been a virtual non-factor all season. There’s tons to be said about that organization in its current state, let alone the rumors on its future. Maybe Preece ends up in the open Front Row Motorsports ride if it’s there or takes the Cole Custer route of taking a step back and being a contender in the NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Nix: Austin Dillon. If he maintained this current level of performance for the entire season, it would easily be the worst season of his career. Retiring from driving full time would be addition by subtraction for the organization, and he has thrived in an ownership role in the past. He was pivotal in recruiting Busch to join RCR, and he has a better eye for talent than people typically give him credit. If he makes the call that his driving days are done after this season, it would be the best option for stabilizing RCR at all divisions.

Neff: Looking at the major players in the sport, the only driver who could really use a change of scenery is Alex Bowman. The No. 48 driver continues to seem like the unwanted stepchild in the Hendrick Motorsports family. It will be hard for him to do better elsewhere, but sometimes you need a change.

NASCAR debuted its Alumni Network at Darlington. Who is someone you would like to see participate?

Watson: Carl Edwards. His impact on the sport as a competitor was important in the 2000s and 2010s driving for RFK Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. His personality to connect with NASCAR fans and his sportsmanship to his competitors in the garage were nearly unmatched, and seeing his presence at the track last year felt like a breath of fresh air. Having Edwards as a member of the Alumni Network would only strengthen the newly formed group.

Glover: Ricky Rudd immediately jumps out. Rudd made a couple of media appearances between 2020 and 2021, but it almost feels like he’s gone off the grid in the past decade. He’s an underrated driver in the sport considering that he won at least one race each season from 1983-1998 and became racing’s true iron man by making 788 consecutive starts despite multiple injuries. He also deserves to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Celebrating his career would be good both to get him back at the track and also to educate new fans on his legacy.

Neff: The Wood brothers have been around since the beginning. Childress is another great wealth of stories of the hay day of the sport. From the media side, Al Pierce, Steve Waid, Lee Spencer, Deb Williams and Winston Kelley are wonderful sources of stories, and they were never written about.

Nix: Lake Speed. His journey to victory lane was quite memorable, and many are nostalgic about his No. 9 SPAM car. He deserves to share his story of perseverance with modern-day fans because his victory at Darlington is viewed as one of the greatest underdog wins in the sport’s history. If Speed is in good health, he would be a great hit for fans and drivers alike.

Bass: What is Ted Musgrave up to these days? I’d like to see him participate and find out. The former Truck champion was a staple in the Cup Series throughout the 1990s, most notably wheeling the No. 16 Family Channel/Primestar Ford out of Jack Roush’s stable. Musgrave never found victory lane at the highest level but was close on multiple occasions and was always a contender for a top-10 finish. He moved into the NCTS in 2001 and won numerous races over the next handful of years, culminating with a title in 2005 driving Dodges for Ultra Motorsports. His career sputtered to a quiet end in 2012, as it often does for most drivers, and he hasn’t been heard from since.

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How surprised are you about Layne Riggs’ performance in the Truck Series? Can he can turn things around?

Krause: Week in and week out, I keep thinking that Layne Riggs and FRM will stay out of trouble and finally nab a good finish. Outside of a top 10 at Bristol Motor Speedway, they just haven’t put it together. Riggs is a great short track driver and a good driver overall at the Truck level, but he hasn’t put together two straight races without a mistake or really bad luck. That said, there’s ample opportunity for him to save face in his rookie year with three more short tracks until the playoffs. While title contention might be out of the picture, I can still see FRM and Riggs contending at places like North Wilkesboro, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and Richmond Raceway.

Glover: Riggs has been the most surprising driver to underperform. He made three Truck starts apiece in 2022 and 2023 and indicated he could adapt quickly and get a lot of speed out of the truck. He wasn’t in the best equipment in most of those cases either, and given he was put in championship equipment at FRM this season, there was a lot of merit to being optimistic. So far, he has one top 10 and an average finish of 23.3. He’s had unfortunate circumstances between getting caught up in another driver’s mess, plus driver or team mistakes. However, things will turn around. In the past five races, he’s qualified eighth or better four times, and he’s been running much better. Crashes have ruined solid days, but he had a really fast truck at Darlington. If the No. 38 team can just execute and take it one race at a time, Riggs should be running much better later in the season.

Bass: Preseason, I posited that Riggs would not win a race this year, but I was firm in my belief that he would secure Rookie of the Year honors with consistent results and by taking care of his equipment. His results thus far are unacceptable for a championship organization. Riggs is 21st out of 26 full-time drivers in the point standings and has amassed only 11 more points than Kaden Honeycutt, who has made five fewer starts. The No. 38 group has experienced bad luck, but it’s also lacked race pace on a weekly basis, making trouble easier to find. At this juncture, it’ll need a Hail Mary win to make the playoffs; it can’t dink and dunk its way back into the picture on points.

Nix: I’m surprised. It seems like the team and driver just haven’t yet found their footing, and he is almost worse than Honeycutt in the point standings. The No. 38 is championship caliber as Zane Smith has shown, but Riggs deserves a bit of a longer leash because he hasn’t run full time in any capacity in NASCAR. While I would be blown away if he won or rebounded to make the playoffs on points, he needs at least a season and a half in that truck to be fairly judged. He’ll improve over time.

Watson: I’m astonished at how slow of a start Riggs and FRM have had to start the 2024 Truck season. I had high hopes for Riggs initially with being attached to a championship-winning team, but for whatever reason, he has either found extremely bad luck or has not had the pace to compete for wins and good finishes outside of a few short track races this season. His best finish of the season is 10th at Bristol, and he only has two more top-20 finishes at Martinsville Speedway and Kansas Speedway nine races into the season. Sitting 21st in points and 72 points behind the cutoff, Riggs only has seven more races to turn things around. Without a win, I don’t see him making up that gap to make the playoffs.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kevin Nix has been with Frontstretch since February 2023. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, his dream is to be in the NASCAR media sphere full-time. He is a video assistant, working on the back end to streamline video and audio quality of all at-track interviews. Nix also writes about news every Monday for the site.

Nix graduated with a Master's Degree in Sports Journalism from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, Arizona. He also has bachelor's degrees in Communications and Political Science. In his downtime, he likes to read, play video games and take walks in the Arizona weather - when it's not too hot.

Austin Bass joined Frontstretch in 2024 as a contributor to combine his passion for racing and writing. Born in Wilson, NC, he developed a passion for racing at an early age while attending local short tracks on Saturday nights with his dad and watching the stars of the sport from their living room on Sunday afternoons.

Bass is a graduate of UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Communication Studies where he developed a deep understanding, appreciation, and love for the Oxford comma. He is an industrial degreaser salesman for Cox Industries whenever he is not writing or talking about racing.

James Krause joined Frontstretch in March 2024 as a contributor. Krause was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Northern Illinois University. He currently works in La Crosse, Wisconsin as a local sports reporter, including local short track racing. Outside of racing, Krause loves to keep up with of football, music, anime and video games.

Wyatt Watson has followed NASCAR closely since 2007. He joined Frontstretch as a journalist in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter, collecting exclusive content for Frontstretch.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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I think Kyle Busch will be replaced next year at RCR by either Jesse Love or Austin Hill. I don’t see Childress buying another charter because he’s among the oldest owners. Kyle should go back to Toyota. It’s clear all 3 Toyota teams work together the best while Chevy gives almost all its money to Hendrick.

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